Thu 26 Jan 2006 5:35 AM ET
By Cris Chinaka
HARARE, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's central bank governor rang the alarm
on the country's crumbling economy this week in a frank account which
analysts say shook officials by airing fears of possible food riots and
President Robert Mugabe's government is mired in its worst crisis since
independence from Britain in 1980, fighting food shortages, triple-digit
inflation, a jobless rate above 70 percent and shortages of foreign currency
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono -- known as a Mugabe
favourite -- cut through the government's usually rosy self-assessment in
his monetary policy statement this week, giving a rare public warning of
possible food riots and slamming bureaucratic inaction.
Political analysts said Gono's stark forecast revealed deepening fears
within Mugabe's inner circle.
"The import of his statement is that beneath the veneer of a brave face,
there is underlying fear of political unrest," said Eldred Masunungure,
chairman of the political science department at Harare's University of
"The fact that they are now discussing their fears in public is a
demonstration of the growing anxiety," he said.
John Makumbe, a political commentator and a critic of Mugabe's government,
said Gono, who has been head of the central bank for two years, decided to
publicly air his problems with the government out of frustration.
"What we saw ... when Gono talked about riots and so on was a mirror of the
political fears in Mugabe's government," he said.
Gono, regarded as one of Mugabe's trusted technocrats, said mineral-rich
Zimbabwe had potential but needed to boost farm output, which has fallen by
half since the government started seizing white-owned commercial farms six
"The country is ... standing on the edge of a cliff which threatens to
irreversibly take us downhill if we do not boldly move forward with speed to
address most of our shortcomings," he said in his speech to hundreds of
business and political leaders on Tuesday.
HUNGER AND ANGER
Mugabe, accused by the West of pursuing hardline domestic policies, has
deployed riot police to crush demonstrations since violent protests broke
out against his government in 1998, and analysts say his opponents are
But Gono said the country's army chief was concerned and had recently warned
him that the central bank had to ensure adequate food supplies for a country
where millions are surviving on food aid.
"To quote the wisdom of General Constantine Chiwenga, 'a hungry man is an
angry man', and he said we must do everything to ensure the army does not
one day have to face angry hungry people on the streets," he said.
Gono said the government had finally pledged to end farm invasions by ruling
party supporters -- blamed by critics for the decline in food supplies --
and to do more to respect private property rights.
He also said Zimbabwe had to tackle graft and rebuild its ties with the
international community, including the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund, which this week has an inspection mission visiting Harare.
John Robertson, a private economic consultant and business commentator, said
while Mugabe regards the IMF as a hostile institution, he has allowed Gono
to try to mend fences and win crucial aid in the hope of staving off further
"I don't know whether the political fears that Gono was talking about will
force the government to do more although those fears have been around for a
while," he said.
"But on their record, I don't think they will be able to do enough and in
time," he added.
Fri 27 January 2006
HARARE - Southern African and international lawyers' groups have
criticised Zimbabwean police for clamping down on media freedom and using
hostage tactics to secure the arrest of President Robert Mugabe's critics.
Police this week arrested and charged five trustees of the independent
Voice of the People (VOP) broadcasting firm and charged them with violating
the country's tough media laws.
But the police first detained two private workers of one of the
trustees, Arnold Tsunga, and refused to release them until their employer
In a letter to Attorney General (AG) Sobuza Gula Ndebele dated January
24, the International Bar Association (IBA) said: "We strongly condemn the
renewed clampdown on media freedom and the unlawful use of the state's
powers of arrest during policing operations relating to the investigation of
"We refer in particular to the unlawful and unacceptable arrest and
prosecutions of Anesu Kamba and Charles Nyamufukudzwa that was clearly
directed at securing the co-operation of their employer, VOP Trustee, Arnold
The arrests of Tsunga's workers followed the arrest on December 15
last year of Maria Nyanyiwa, Nyasha Bosha and Kundai Mugwanda, reporters
with the VOP, who were detained for four days and subsequently released
Their arrests and detention was apparently made in order to persuade
the executive director of VOP John Masuku to hand himself over to the police
"We are gravely concerned at what appears to be an emerging pattern of
illegitimate use of arrest as a device to secure the presence of suspects.
We call for the respect for the rule of law and of basic human rights
standards in all criminal investigations," the IBA said.
The IBA criticised Harare's Broadcasting Services Act which it said
was being used to suppress media freedom in contravention of the
government's obligation under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and
the African Charter which both require the government to uphold the freedom
The broadcasting Act prohibits Zimbabweans from operating radio and
television or even owning broadcasting equipment without permission from the
Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe. Those convicted of breaching the Act
face up two years in jail. The state accuses the VOP trustees and directors
of operating a broadcasting service without a licence. They deny the charge.
In a separate letter to Gula-Ndebele, the Southern African Development
Community Lawyers Association expressed concern that the Harare government
was using the broadcasting Act and other media laws to arrest journalists
although it had undertaken to review the harsh laws.
The association said: "We are concerned that the police are alleged to
be implementing the media laws which the government of Zimbabwe itself
recently formally advised the African Commission on Human and People's
Rights were under review.
"It being conceded that they violate fundamental human rights and
freedoms, we request that the police should respect their human rights,
including the rights to liberty."
The VOP, which broadcasts on shortwave is one of two independent radio
stations transmitting into Zimbabwe from outside the country in an attempt
to circumvent Harare's tough laws and regulations.
The radio station's programmes are in the two main vernacular
languages, Shona and Ndebele, enabling it to reach out to remoter parts of
the country, inaccessible to Zimbabwe's few remaining independent
Zimbabwe has four radio stations and one television station all
controlled by the government.
The southern Africa country, which has laws providing for the
imprisonment of journalists for up to 20 years for publishing falsehoods,
was ranked by the World Association of Newspapers as one of the three most
dangerous places in the world for journalists.
The other two countries are the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan
and the Islamic Republic of Iran. - ZimOnline
Fri 27 January 2006
HARARE - Zimbabwe's central bank has devalued the local dollar by 15
percent on its foreign currency auction floors where exporters are required
to sell 17.5 percent of their proceeds, money which is used to meet
President Robert Mugabe's government's needs.
The auction rate, which had remained pegged at Z$26 000 to the US
dollar yesterday moved to Z$30 000 to greenback, the first time it has moved
since October last year.
However, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono has set new
rules aimed at restricting the local currency's depreciation on the
interbank market, a move analysts say will intensify activity on the illegal
but thriving hard cash black market.
The Zimbabwe dollar had continued to slide sharply on the interbank
market, at a rate of 1.5 percent a day against major currencies but the new
rules will see fluctuations in the local currency linked to actual volumes
traded on the interbank market, with daily movements limited to a maximum of
two percent in either direction.
"I think the central bank is trying to balance the auction rate and
the interbank," a foreign currency dealer with a local commercial bank told
"This is because there is now more central bank control on the
interbank market, which I believe will be negative in the long run if the
Zimbabwe dollar does not depreciate in line with inflation expectations."
The Zimbabwe dollar has been quoted at Z$99 201 against the greenback
on Tuesday, the first time it has not devalued since the interbank was
revived last October.
Exporters, who have become critical in sustaining Mugabe's government
in the absence of financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) and international donors, are allowed to retain and sell 82.5 percent
of their earnings on the interbank and the remainder on the auction to meet
The government needs include food, drugs, fuel, vehicles and various
expenses incurred by senior officials during foreign trips.
Zimbabwe has experienced severe foreign currency shortages, one of the
clearest signs of an economic crisis also seen in high unemployment,
hyper-inflation and food and fuel shortages.
An IMF team is currently in the country and is in the process of
holding consultations with Zimbabwe government officials before engaging
business, labour and opposition officials. - ZimOnline
Fri 27 January 2006
HARARE - A group of about 20 young men are engaged in a fierce debate
as they offload some bricks from a truck at a construction site in Harare's
Willowvale industrial area.
In high-pitched voices, the group continues to feverishly argue
whether Zimbabwe's national soccer team, the Warriors, have any chance in
hell to make an impact at the ongoing African Cup of Nations (ACON)
tournament in Egypt.
For a change, it looks like the subject of politics, which dominates
public discourse in crisis-weary Zimbabwe, has for now been pushed to the
back seat. In its place is the beautiful game, as Brazilian legend Pele
would put it.
Zimbabweans, it appears, have all momentarily forgotten about their
normal daily woes of food shortages, long queues at supermarkets and lack of
Even the rival supporters of President Robert Mugabe and main
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai seem to have buried the hatchet - at
least for now - as a collective euphoria grips the nation.
"It appears as if even the government is not under constant scrutiny
at the moment. They can get away with anything at present as the nation has
gone to sleep," said Tinashe Chamunorwa, a banker in Harare.
The Warriors are making their second consecutive appearance at the
Nations Cup finals, itself a cause for celebration by Zimbabweans who had
waited for 24 years to see their national squad making it to Africa's
premier soccer tournament.
A 2-0 mauling by Senegal in their opening game could not even deflate
the palpable euphoria with many Zimbabweans somehow hoping the Warriors
will perform better against Nigeria in their second game tonight. This,
despite the fact that Nigeria's Super Eagles are tougher opponents than
"The talk would normally be about the food shortages, where to find
sugar, bread or maize meal but not these days," said Memory Chibasa, a sales
assistant with a leading clothing retail chain in Harare.
"These days we are all living, talking and dreaming soccer," she added
and as if to prove her point quickly began recounting how her younger
brother would not eat his supper on Monday night after Zimbabwe's defeat by
Jethro Mpofu, a social commentator in Zimbabwe's second biggest city
of Bulawayo said after six years of a severe economic crisis it was not
surprising that Zimbabweans would cling at anything that would make them
forget their worries even if the relief is only temporary.
"While watching the Nations Cup finals is the preserve of an
embarrassing percentage of the population who own television sets, the
games can only provide a psychological escape route in these trying times,"
Zimbabwe's economic crisis, the worst the country has faced in more
than two decades of independence from Britain, has spawned shortages of
nearly every basic survival commodity. Food, fuel, electricity and essential
medical drugs are all in short supply while inflation is pegged at 585.8
percent with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe predicting the key rate to shoot
to between 700 and 800 percent by March.
But within this crisis, Zimbabweans say they have found some peace and
hope in sport, particularly soccer, the dominant sport among the country's
And Mugabe's government, held responsible by critics for Zimbabwe's
economic crisis, has been quick to exploit the opportunity to use sport for
Through the Ministry of Sport, the government has in the past openly
hijacked the national soccer team raising billions of dollars to pay for
incentives and other needs for the Warriors' at the soccer tournament, in
what political analysts say is a bid to win the hearts of soccer-loving
But to some Zimbabweans the fact that the government could devote so
much energy to raising resources for soccer when hospitals were going
without drugs and millions face starvation only saves to show how misplaced
its priorities are.
As 35-year old mother of two Tsitsi Chizambi summed it: "Why can't the
government demonstrate the same spirit of compassion to help the hungry
given the manner in which it raised billions of dollars to meet the
Warriors' expenses at the tournament?"
It remains to be seen whether the government's robust backing for the
Warriors will pay off politically. But for now Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF
party can afford to take a nap as the attention of a hungry and angry
Zimbabwe is momentarily focused elsewhere - on the tournament in Egypt. -
By Carole Gombakomba
26 January 2006
Looking to support its "Look East" policy of close economic ties with China
and other Asian nations, Zimbabwe's government says it will oblige
university students to learn Chinese. Education Minister Stan Mudenge told
the Standard newspaper that courses in Mandarin will "promote tourism and
trade between the two countries."
But students at the University of Zimbabwe, which reopens next month, are
dismissing the scheme, saying Chinese would be of little use to them and
noting that institutions nationwide are facing shortages of lecturers, books
and boarding facilities.
University of Zimbabwe lecturer John Makumbe told reporter Carole Gombakomba
of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the language initiative was nonsensical.
But University of Zimbabwe education professor Fred Zindi told VOA reporter
Ashenafi Abedjie that while he is maintaining a neutral stand on the
proposal, "Knowedge for the sake of knowledge is good and useful at some
point." He notes that China is the world's fourth largest economic, making
it worthwhile for Zimbabwe to develop ties.
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
JOHANNESBURG, 26 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - The Dutch government has been urged to
take action on the alleged jamming by the Zimbabwe authorities of Radio
Netherlands broadcasts to the country.
Thijs Berman, a Dutch member of the European parliament, told IRIN that the
Zimbabwean government was using jamming equipment to block Voice of the
People (VOP) programmes produced in Zimbabwe and broadcast into the country
by Radio Netherlands via its relay station in Madagascar.
"This is a clear violation of freedom of the press and we have urged the
Dutch government to file an official complaint via the International
Telecommunications Union (ITU). They have not yet responded and we are
disappointed by the lack of action," Berman remarked.
Jan Willem Drexhage, head of programme distribution at Radio Netherlands,
said the organisation's options were "very limited - we find ourselves in a
difficult position and have asked the Madagascar administration to file a
complaint and take up the issue with the Zimbabwe government".
The Zimbabwean government switched on its Chinese-supplied shortwave jamming
equipment to block VOP reception of programming in July 2005, Andy Sennitt,
of Radio Netherlands told IRIN.
In March last year the BBC monitoring service reported that SW Radio Africa,
an independent anti-government station broadcasting from Britain, had also
been jammed by Zimbabwean authorities.
Zimbabwe's National Security Minister, Dydimus Mutasa, denied the
allegations, saying Zimbabwe did not block broadcasting, and "it must be
their imagination. If it does happen, it is because the broadcasting is
VOP has been unable to resume operations since police confiscated its
equipment and files, and arrested director John Masuku in a December 2005
raid. This week the six-member board of VOP were detained and charged with
broadcasting without a license.
In December 2005 the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ben Bot, responded
to questions in parliament on the willingness of the Dutch government to
take action against Zimbabwe's alleged harassment of VOP by saying, "If the
situation warrants any action, the Netherlands will ensure that the
necessary steps are taken through the European Union."
Berman noted that the ITU could not impose sanctions on Zimbabwe, and that a
complaint filed by the Dutch "would only be symbolic", and "a way to show
the Zimbabwe government that people from outside are watching".
January 26, 2006
Harare - An International Monetary Fund team held meetings with key finance
officials in Zimbabwe on Thursday after its narrow escape from IMF expulsion
last year for debt arrears.
"We met them today (Thursday) and discussed various issues," Economic
Development Minister Rugare Gumbo, told AFP.
The IMF team "did not say anything after the discussions," Gumbo added.
Maybe they will speak next week once they are through with their findings."
The five-member delegation is in the southern African country to assess its
economic health after Zimbabwe won itself a six-month reprieve from
expulsion from the world lending body last September when it made an
Findings from the current mission will be used at an IMF executive board
meeting on March 8 to decide on Zimbabwe's fate.
Gumbo refused to disclose details of the deliberations but according to an
official schedule of the meetings, the discussions centred on fiscal
revenue, the 2005 outturn, this year's budget projections and new measures.
IMF spokeswoman Lucie Mboto Fouda said Zimbabwe's arrears to the fund
amounted to $136,7-million ( about R1,1-billion) after it had paid off
another 17 million dollars ahead of the delegation's visit.
Central bank chief Gideon Gono said this week Zimbabwe would beat its
February 28 deadline to pay off its $16,2-million arrears under the IMF's
general resources account.
Settling the general resources account will enable the country to benefit
from the IMF's technical assistance programmes and regain its voting rights.
Once the bread basket of southern Africa, Zimbabwe avoided the boot from the
global financing body in September last year after making an unexpected
payment to the IMF to relieve some of its outstanding debt.
The country had risked becoming the second to be kicked out of the IMF since
the former Czechoslovakia in 1954.
Last October Gono promised the remainder of Zimbabwe's IMF debt would be
paid in two instalments in February and November this year.
The previous month, Zimbabwe chipped in 120 million dollars --
more than a third of its outstanding foreign debt - and thereby gained a
six-month reprieve. - Sapa-AFP
9.43AM, Thu Jan 26 2006
Zimbabweans looking to escape oppression are resorting to swimming across
the crocodile infested Limpopo River to South Africa.
The fast flowing river separates the two countries and on top of any natural
dangers such as wildlife and currents, South African police patrol the other
The very fact some Zimbabweans consider the journey at all is proof of their
desperation to run from the poverty and misery they face each day.
One border jumper, Agnes, was four months pregnant when she crossed the
river two months ago, risking not just her own life but that of her unborn
She said: "The water was up to neck but I had to take the risk, even with
the crocodiles, more for my baby's future than my own.
"I could not stay in Zimbabwe anymore."
January 26, 2006
Zimbabwe's players are preparing to go to court in a bid to extract their
unpaid salaries and match fees from their cricket board, having set a
deadline of January 31for the dispute to be resolved.
The players, who last week ended their strike action in the hope that a
softening of their stance would ease the way for a resumption of
negotiations, are owed about US$200,000 in total, including vehicle and fuel
allowances, and most have not been paid since last August.
Now they have enlisted the services of a leading lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa,
and intend to take the case to the Harare High Court and pursue Zimbabwe
Cricket for an index-linked sum of more than US$700,000.
"I have been engaged by the players to act for them in their claims," said
Mtetwe,"but I am naturally waiting to see what happens in the next six
Even if the board was willing to resolve the situation, which seems
unlikely, it appears that they have no funds available to do so. One of the
major stumbling blocks is the exchange rate. The money owed was calculated
at a rate of Zim$25,000 to the dollar, but that rate has since spiralled to
Zimbabwe Cricket's original contract offer made no allowance for index
linking, but in a country with runaway inflation, that was never likely to
The renewed militancy will be a problem for ZC as it is considering
ICC-driven proposals to play in a tri-series in Bangladesh which would
feature Kenya as the third side. On Tuesday, Cricket Kenya also announced
that it was in talks to host three ODIs against Zimbabwe, possibly as early
as next month.
26/01/2006 09:26 - (SA)
Johannesburg - Zimbabwe is keen to talk to the African Union's human rights
body over its "discriminatory tendencies", that country's Herald newspaper
reported on Thursday.
It quoted Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa as saying: "We need an
undertaking that what has happened in the past will stop and that they will
treat us like any other African country."
He said there was a need for the AU's Commission on Human and People's
Rights to be transparent and objective in executing its duties.
"We feel dejected as Government that we can't expect to receive justice from
the commission if it continues treating us without due process of the law."
Last month, the commission criticised what it called the continuing
deterioration in human rights in Zimbabwe.
It said last year's mass evictions violated individual and collective
rights, and called for those responsible to be brought to justice.
The government's Operation Murambatsvina, or Clear Out Trash, left about 700
000 people without homes, jobs or both, according to United Nations
Minister Chinamasa said on Wednesday he met commission chairperson Salamata
Sawadogo of Burkina Faso at last week's AU summit in Sudan.
"I indicated that the government wants dialogue with the commission to clear
the air on a broad range of issues as it pertains to Zimbabwe," he said.
"The commission is now in the habit of refusing audience with Zimbabwe, and
this is contrary to the rules and principles of natural justice."
Daily Mirror, Zimbabwe
issue date :2006-Jan-26
ZIMBABWE has agreed to compensate Zambia for the northern neighbour's
contribution to the construction of Kariba South Power Station during the
era of the two countries' colonial occupation by Britain.
The Minister of Energy and Power Development, Mike Nyambuya, said the two
countries were now engaged in mutual discussions to agree on the quantum of
the financial compensation to be given to Zambia.
Zambia, said the minister, contributed to the construction of Lake Kariba
and the southern hydropower station but pulled out of the project after 1965
following the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) by the then
(Rhodesia) Prime Minister Ian Smith.
When Zambia pulled out of the Kariba South power project it embarked on the
construction of a massive hydropower project of its own that saw it build
its own power station on the northern tip of Lake Kariba, which it wholly
However, that was despite the fact that the two neighbouring countries,
under the colonial rule of Britain at the time, had teamed up to construct
the mighty Lake Kariba under a holding company called the Central Power
This company owned the dam and the generating units but was later dissolved
in the mid 1980s.
"Up until 1965 power generation was done at Kariba Southern when Zambia
decided that it wanted to build its own generation unit on the northern tip
of the lake.
"Differences between the two countries, however, arose after independence
when Zambia asked for compensation as Zimbabwe had contributed nothing in
the construction of the northern power plant," said Nyambuya.
Nyambuya said the antagonism between the two neighbours came about when the
Central Power Corporation was wound up and assets shared.
The minister said Zimbabwe conceded that it did not contribute anything to
the building of Zambia hydropower station on the northern end of the dam
whereas Zambia did in the construction of Kariba South and so was prepared
to advance the payment in compensation.
Nyambuya pointed out that a mutual agreement would be reached, as the two
countries remained the best of friends adding that they were working
together in other hydropower projects along the Zambezi River.
Zimbabwe and Zambia, following the dissolution of the Central Power
Corporation, then formed the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) to jointly manage
the welfare of Lake Kariba and the river itself.
The explanation by the minister puts to rest media speculation that the two
neighbouring countries were involved in a tug of war in which Zambia was
allegedly demanding a 17 percent stake in Lake Kariba.
As things stand, Zimbabwe wholly owns Kariba South while the same applies to
Zambia for the Kariba North.
Behind the Headlines takes a closer look at Robert Mugabe's much talked
about retirement home in Borrowdale, Harare. The palace is said to have cost
at least US$10 million to build. Instead of the proverbial 'love thy
neighbour' policy, Mugabe has given notice to homeowners around his mansion
that their properties now fall under a designated security area and will be
confiscated by the state. UK Telegraph journalist Peta Thornycroft has been
following the story and speaks to Lance Guma about the plight of residents
in the area.
SW Radio Africa
Behind The Headlines with Lance Guma
Thursday 5:15 to 5:30pm (GMT) live on the internet at www.swradioafrica.com
Friday 5:15 to 5:30am on Medium Wave broadcasts 1197khz
Also available on internet archives after broadcasts at
SW Radio Africa is Zimbabwe's only independent radio station broadcasting
from the United Kingdom. The station is staffed by exiled Zimbabwean
journalists who because of harsh media laws cannot broadcast from home.
Full broadcast on Medium Wave -1197KHZ between 5-7am (Zimbabwean time) and
24 hours on the internet at www.swradioafrica.com.